In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball has announced that Oakland A's outfielder Manny Ramirez will be allowed to purchase his way out of his suspension, and may be added to his club's 25-man active roster as soon as he remits payment.
Ramirez, who retired after 17 at-bats with the Tampa Bay Rays last season rather than serve a suspension stemming from a failed drug test, signed a one-year minor-league contract with Oakland in February and spent spring training with the club. He began serving the suspension, already reduced from 100 to 50 games, when the A's traveled to Japan to take on the Seattle Mariners in the first two games of the regular season.
The exact amount of the buy-in has not been made official, but sources close to both parties indicate it is approximately $100,000 per game. While Ramirez's 2012 contract calls for a salary of just $500,000, he has made over $20 million per season at various times and has earned more than 10 times that amount in his career.
"We know he has the money, otherwise we wouldn't have extended this offer," continued the spokesman, "We wouldn't waste our time on some broke-ass chump."
The 39-year old Ramirez has amassed 555 home runs and 1,831 RBI in a career marked by suspensions and behavior often best described as eccentric. His last full season came in 2008, when he hit .332 for the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was signed this winter by Oakland general manager Billy Beane to bring some power to an A's lineup lacking a real home-run threat. Never known for his defense, Ramirez is set to be the Oakland designated hitter on or about May 30, when his suspension was originally scheduled to be lifted.
"But now he doesn't have to wait," said a source close to MLB's legal advisors. The motivation for the offer from the Commissioner's office may be tied to recent revelations that none of the staff at MLB have been putting money in the honor can next to the break-room coffee pot.
"The honor system has broken down completely," said an MLB insider, "and the hope is that the Manny money will help replenish these very necessary funds."
This story was assembled by reporters working in Oakland, Tokyo, New York, and Shangri-La, Arizona.